St. Valentine and the Lupercalia
Valentine’s Day is known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati.” It is celebrated primarily only between lovers and sweethearts, but like many “commercial holidays” that have been influenced by the United States, this has spread to other parts of the population over the years.
Valentine’s Day world-wide is generally accepted to be a holiday that grew from the death of Saint Valentine on February 14. Some legends state that he married lovers during wartime despite a Roman ban on the policy, and was thus put to death.
As with many Christian holidays, however, Valentine’s Day also conveniently usurps an ancient Roman holiday. In this case, there were two specific holidays/feasts that were held on February 15 that seem to provide the ties to the ancient world. One is the feast of “Lupercalia” which was a Roman festival to mark the coming spring and signified the fertility of the city. Writings in relation to this feast indicate that on the “eve” of Lupercalia (so February 14), women were betrothed by family of through a lottery, making February 14 a day of “engagement” as has become quite typical in the Western celebrations of Valentine’s Day.
Regardless of the origins, it seems clear that Valentine’s Day is a holiday that is firmly steeped in Italian tradition. I think some Perugina Baci are in order!
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